An historic $391.5 million settlement with Google in the US has been finalized over its location tracking practices.
“For years Google has prioritized profit over their users’ privacy. They have been crafty and deceptive. Consumers thought they had turned off their location tracking features on Google, but the company continued to secretly record their movements and use that information for advertisers”, said Attorney General Rosenblum.
Google has misled users into thinking that they had turned off location tracking, while Google continued to collect their location information. For Google, location data is a key part of its digital advertising business. It uses personal and behavioral data to build detailed user profiles and target ads.
As part of the multimillion-dollar settlement, Google has agreed to significantly improve its location tracking disclosures and user controls starting in 2023. The settlement furthermore requires that Google will be more transparent about its practices by:
- Showing additional information to users whenever they turn a location-related account setting “on” or “off”;
- Make key information about location tracking unavoidable for users (i.e., not hidden); and
- Give users detailed information about the types of location data Google collects and how it is used at an enhanced “Location Technologies” webpage.
In a blog post, Google outlined it will “provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow.” The company also plans to add additional disclosures to its Activity controls and Data & Privacy pages.
This settlement is an important milestone, since location data is among the most sensitive and valuable data that Google collects, as it can expose a person’s identity, routines, and to infer personal details. This settlement is another example of how individuals would benefit from having a comprehensive US federal privacy law in place that prevents the usage of large amounts of personal data for marketing purposes with only a few controls in place.
How does your organization safeguard the processing of location data or the processing of user profiles? Contact us, experts in data privacy, if you want to learn more via: firstname.lastname@example.org.